As a working musician, your goal, in a sense, is maximum exposure. You share your work and your story in the hopes that an audience will gather around to hear them, pouring yourself into your art so as to better connect with the listeners who make your pursuits possible. You welcome the world in and show them exactly who you are. For Compton duo Paris Texas, that kind of revelation is the exception, not the rule. Yet the gambit works: The mysteries of the duo’s genre-defying, self-produced debut project only heighten its intrigue, imbuing BOY ANONYMOUS with a sense of boundless possibility.
Who are Paris Texas, really? It’s hard to say. Press emails mostly refer to them by their band name, and provide zero biographical information except their individual stage names, Louie Pastel and Felix, and their point of origin, South Central Los Angeles. These emails mention genre only in saying that “Paris Texas transcends genre.” They wear hats and hoodies in their press photos, appearing as animated avatars or obscured by shadows. The band’s Spotify and Twitter bios are blank, while their Facebook and Instagram bios say only “33.6609° N 95.5555° W”—GPS coordinates smack-dab in the center of the literal city of Paris, Texas.
Diving into the band’s Instagram feed, specifically, takes one further and further away from gaining any outside perspective on who Paris Texas are, i.e., deeper and deeper down a rabbithole of the duo’s own invention. As you scroll through the series of teasers they’ve been unspooling since early February, things both stop and start making sense. Much like a movie—just take, say, Wim Wenders’ 1984, Harry Dean Stanton-starring drama Paris, Texas—Paris Texas have been deliberately building out their backstory from the moment they stepped into frame, dropping bread crumbs along the path to who knows where.
In their macabre and enigmatic teaser photos and videos, Louie Pastel and Felix take on new identities, Francis L. Parker and Austin Rich (respectively … maybe), assuming new roles before we’ve even gotten to know their old ones. Their “Ditch-Maid” ID badges identify them as “Body Recovery” specialists. They wear matching jumpsuits and hats, cleaning up bloodied bodies on a snowy mountainside like something out of Fargo, and bonding and freestyling together during a break from the grind, a la Clerks. They stay in character while rolling out videos for their first three singles, “HEAVY METAL,” “SITUATIONS” and “FORCE OF HABIT,” and a three-minute sketch that lays out their backstory (“fucking lore?!” exclaims a delighted Insta commenter) of being recruited to do Ditch-Maid’s dirty work because they’re “lonely” and “amoral” “low-lifes.” Just last week, they posted a photo set of a dozen-odd bodies—cult members, it would appear, judging by their uniform grouping and tightly grasped cups—that had them ready to give up on the gig, lying down next to the corpses.
All this to say: You almost never see a band arrive online and immediately initiate a game of four-dimensional chess this way. It’s part of why, when the band shared their debut single “HEAVY METAL,” I praised their “unmistakable intensity and energy of intention,” writing, “It’s thrilling to see a new act arrive with a clear idea of who they are and what they’re here to do.” As all the world-building around BOY ANONYMOUS can attest, Paris Texas are exceptional storytellers who know exactly how to draw you in, but more importantly, they make music that keeps you there, mixing dark comedy and emotional introspection, grit and sensitivity, with a chameleonic sound that never sits still for long. Like Paris Texas themselves, the project only ever pulls back the curtain for moments at a time, offering mere glimpses and enticing the audience to piece them together.
At eight tracks, BOY ANONYMOUS is not quite an album, nor is it an EP—it’s not quite hip-hop, nor is it rock or pop, though elements of all three genres are all over it. This is exactly as Paris Texas intended: “Categories make things comfortable for our lil lizard brains,” Louie acknowledged on Instagram in announcing the band’s debut. “But this project we kinda embraced the ideal of not knowing exactly who or what we are, hence the name: BOY ANONYMOUS.” Like shadows looming large on a wall, the music is amplified by its mystery—the duo’s stylistic versatility makes them seem capable of almost anything.
Part of that power comes from good, old-fashioned rap braggadocio: “I can’t chill with a bop or a bozo / I’m the one dodging bullets in slo-mo,” Louie raps to open “HEAVY METAL,” perhaps the project’s most indelible blend of confidence and vulnerability, on both the lyric and instrumental levels. Felix has hardly started his verse before he’s shifting his rhyme scheme—“Blessed with my presence, say thanks / Little bitch, what is your rank? / Walk in my hood for a second / They might put you in the dirt / Born this way it must be a curse”—then shifting it again in the same verse. The duo pull not only The Matrix, but also JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure and SSX Tricky from their reference rolodex on “HEAVY METAL” alone, subtly filtering their personalities through pop culture throughout the project as a whole. And when the track’s overblown guitars, crashing cymbals and flying-saucer synths fall away, a washed-out psych-rock guitar takes its place, one of numerous instrumental outros on BOY ANONYMOUS—like echos of strong emotion bubbling up against one’s will, haunting the heart long after they should have faded away. Paris Texas never sap that ache of its strength by defining it.
Nothing but bragging gets boring quickly (“Walk around like I’m the shit / I think it’s a force of habit,” the “FORCE OF HABIT” hook acknowledges), a trap Paris Texas sidestep with ease. Over the bubbling, melodic synth beat of opener “CASINO,” which sounds like a Kanye West Graduation instrumental, Felix declares “Paris Texas, next best thing / Might get that tatted on my teeth” before Louie, reminiscing on simpler, pre-hype times, sings two lines later, “I used to cum in a sock.” The duo are unafraid to undercut their myth-making with self-effacement, but even when they go for the throat, they’re multidimensional, clever and affable: “CASINO” transitions directly into “PACK,” where Felix raps, “I don’t hold the heat, I change the climate,” and Louie’s hook repeats, “She gave me some pussy, beat it like a level” (shortly before he alludes to Futurama and The Muppets) over a minimalist trap beat and electric guitar flourishes. Towards the end of the track, Louie teases, “We got a record, not talkin’ bout Guinness / Them n*ggas done but I haven’t fi—,” stopping just short of a debut album update. Like any cinematic universe creators worth their salt, Paris Texas shrewdly seize their opportunity to tease the next episode.
There’s little else on BOY ANONYMOUS to temper excitement for that full-length—quite the contrary, from the sticky hooks of “SITUATIONS” to the chillwave-esque pop of long-distance love song “AREA CODE.” “BETTER DAYS” is another blend of bouncy braggadocio and aching despair—”If I die before I wake, no demise on my decay / I’ve seen better days, I’ve seen better days,” Felix sings on its elegiac bridge—while the moody “A QUICK DEATH” finds the duo “on the run” from their own emotions over clattering drums, booming bass, gauzy guitar strums and Kid Cudi-esque, big-emotive vocals.
Paris Texas leave us on “FORCE OF HABIT,” with Louie declaring over hazy guitars and bass, “Laugh my way to the bank, ha-ha / Broke as a joke it’s alright with me / I’ma be okay one day / Mood ring, watch my fuckin’ mood change,” maintaining their tonal mercuriality—and matching it with their genre agnosticism—till the project’s last compelling moments. Felix brings those home with one of the best verses on BOY ANONYMOUS: “Man I thought I told ya, Paris Texas soldiers / Want everything the light touches / We need that exposure,“ he raps, and the song fades out with the repeated promise that “Your season is over.” Paris Texas season is just beginning.
Scott Russell is Paste’s music editor and he’ll come up with something clever later. He’s on Twitter, if you’re into tweets: @pscottrussell.